Tuesday, January 24, 2006

tonight's discussion question is...

Do you have to be religious to do theology?

The comments section is open and waiting.

UPDATE: I've seen the comments, and they're all just plain wrong. WRONG, I say!

No, seriously-- I think this could become interesting if you start kicking the topic around with each other. Some stuff to think about:

First, what is theology?

Second, what does it mean to be religious?

Other questions will burble up borborygmically.

My studies in dialogue lead me to believe that shared terminology is key if we're to avoid talking past each other. Sometimes people start off saying things that sound diametrically opposed... but through discussion they discover that they might not have been as far apart as they thought.

My buddy Dave, an aeronautical engineer, probably has it right to think that agreement on core terms is key if people are to get anywhere. In his field, it's an absolute necessity. You can't have five hundred definitions of the word "wave," for instance. Unfortunately, theo/rel is a very different universe of discourse, and it would be harmful to restrict semantic plasticity in my field the way engineers must in their own. Engineers do what they do to make their designs safer, more efficient, etc. That's not the case for those sniffing at the question of ultimate reality. All the same, a little mutual understanding about our personal points of departure can go a long way in a discussion about the Big Things in Life.



  1. Tonight's answer is...


  2. I would say no. In fact it would probably help to not be religious because it would cloud your judgement when trying to be impartial veiwing theology as a whole. Kind of like being nationalistic makes you a poor historian.

  3. No, but I would disagree that being religious would necessarily cloud your judgment and make you unfit to study theology. It *might* cloud your judgment, but if that is the case, then it is most likely because you are not an academic type and would most likely not be fit to "do" theology anyway.

    Also, the comparison to nationalism/history doesn't hold water if you think about--theology is the study of religion, but history is not the study of nationalism. A more apt comparison would be to say that being a part of history makes you a poor historian. What makes people poor historians is not that they are a part of history (as everyone inevitably is), it is that they fail to see beyond their own narrow perspective and see the larger picture. The same thing goes for theology: it is not one's religious beliefs that make one a poor theologian, it is the inability to see beyond them.

    Non-religious people can be just as closed minded about theology as religious people.

  4. Definitions are critical to scientific discourse, but there's nothing scientific about religion.

    Take Genesis, for starters...

    Mutual understanding is impossible.



All comments are subject to approval before they are published, so they will not appear immediately. Comments should be civil, relevant, and substantive. Anonymous comments are not allowed and will be unceremoniously deleted. For more on my comments policy, please see this entry on my other blog.

AND A NEW RULE (per this post): comments critical of Trump's lying must include criticism of Biden's lying on a one-for-one basis! Failure to be balanced means your comment will not be published.